The teacher explains how to take life correctly. Students take notes in silence and raise their hands to delve into the details of the procedure. They do not want to end up testifying before a judge. The room, at the entrance to the Liège hospital, is almost full. About 60 young and old. Three quarters are doctors, the rest are nurses and psychologists. They have paid 25 euros for attending one of the six training sessions organized every year in Belgium by the Association for the Right to Dignify Dignity. Put more briefly: they are learning to practice euthanasia.
The first to speak is the Belgian anesthetist François Damas. Recently retired, he has made more than 150 euthanasia during his career, and despite having finished his working life, he continues to help those who meet the requirements legally die. Microphone in hand, insists on the importance of accompanying the patient at all times, from the request to the final day. The discourse is well known. He has been repeating it for years in France, where he is frequently invited to speak in the middle of an intermittent debate about its legalization. For Ladies, the lucidity of the patient when asking for euthanasia is the great difference compared to other formulas to appease the pain as the terminal sedation, practiced in Spain or France.
Dominique Pitz, 67, sits in the front rows. Student of Spanish in his spare time, this general practitioner has left language classes because he does not concentrate. In September, a 75-year-old former school principal with Parkinson's disease asked him to euthanize him. Since then, his head is buzzing with the idea of taking over responsibility for the first time. In his memory is what happened 14 years ago with a patient, when after the long process to obtain consent and several nights without sleep by the nerves of the premiere, nature went ahead. "During the weekend I had seen her very sleepy, and when I arrived on Monday morning with all the products to practice euthanasia she had just died."
On paper, any doctor is trained to practice euthanasia, but the most experienced insist that the theory of the university classrooms is insufficient. "I'm going to look a bit harsh, but when we talk about ending life, we can not afford any mistakes, neither in medical technology nor in psychological care," warns Jacqueline Herremans, of the association for a dignified death.
Precisely for that, to avoid making mistakes, Pitz has registered. The course helps know the law approved by the Belgian Government in 2002 and avoid such startles. In November, three doctors became the first to be called before a Belgian court on charges of poisoning. A woman's family reports that she was euthanized despite not having an incurable disease, one of the strict conditions to receive the injection.
Along with the technical knowledge it provides, the class is a vindication of euthanasia against the commitment of some doctors to keep the patient alive at all costs, a purpose that they describe as therapeutic cruelty. "Euthanasia is to reappropriate our death, we hear that in France they do not accept it, in Belgium we have overcome that stage, we can be proud," says one of the speakers. On the screen, a vignette supports the thesis of euthanasia as an act of compassion. A crucified man complains: "It hurts." Another responds indifferently: "It will pass".
Pitz, with the date of his first euthanasia approaching, recognizes that he lives with some internal conflict. "I'm not programmed for that, I'm programmed to save lives," he admits. Experts say in a moment of the talk that alleviating pain is a deontological obligation of the doctor, and the class delves into existential paths. "The doctor must come with the patient to the conviction that there is no other solution," says philosopher Marie Lucie Delfosse.